Roman Music

Roman music was important to Ancient Roman culture almost from the beginning.

People of Ancient Rome would have songs for almost every occasion that they celebrated.

Special Occasions

There were many occasions where music was used during Ancient Roman times.  These special times included banquets, weddings, celebrations and even funerals.

Most of the time, it was a custom that people would come together during a funeral and people would play instruments and sing songs to help their dead to make it to the other side smoothly.

Kinds of Music

There were different kinds of music in Ancient Roman times and much of the music celebrated learning such as math and public speaking.

One type of music was called Etruscan music.  This music was during a Roman period called the Imperial Period.


Many times, in Ancient Roman times, music was followed by performances and dances.  The people of this era would do dance such as ballet and they would use music to tell a story about it.

Many plays were performed that were followed by music that was played and sung by the Ancient Romans.

Musical Instruments

The Ancient Romans had many musical instruments including woodwinds, brass, percussion and stringed instruments.

Many of the styles of the instruments were different depending on what area the people lived in.

Some of the musical instruments that were popular during the Ancient Roman times were:

  • Tubas
  • French Horn
  • Bugles
  • Oboe
  • Clairnet type horn
  • Bagpipe
  • Panpipe
  • Lyre-The lyre is considered the oldest Ancient Roman instrument.
  • Cithara (guitar)
  • Lute
  • Organ
  • Sambuca-The sambuca is like a large harp that was played on the ground.
  • Drum
  • Sistrum-a sistrum is a bronze rattle that is shaken to make music.
  • Cymbala (cymbal)
  • Lituus (trumpet)-This instrument was popular because it was carried by the calvary.


Music was also used during religious celebrations.  The Ancient Romans would play music to the gods and goddesses and would have festivals with music.


Being able to play an instrument was a sign of intelligence for the Ancient Romans.  The musicians would have competitions between each other with their music and they would show off what they learned through music.


The military would use music so that they could celebrate those that fought in the military.  Sometimes, they would play during wartimes.

Facts About Ancient Roman Music:

  • Much of the Roman music was adopted by Greek musical traditions.
  • The Romans followed Ancient Greek methods of using four notes and different rhythms.
  • Little Ancient Roman music has survived, and the written music is rarely found.
  • Roman music consisted of a single melody.
  • Roman music did not have harmony.
  • One form of music that was used with dance was called pantomimus.
  • Nero was the one that was known for organizing musical contests.
  • The tympana were a small drum what was carried in the Ancient Roman hands.
  • The tintinnabulum was a bell-shaped whistle.
  • The tibia was like a pipe flute.

What Did You Learn?

  1. What was important about Ancient Roman music?  Ancient Roman music was very popular and was used in a variety of celebrations.
  2. What kind of celebrations was music used for? Music was used for funerals, weddings, military, dancing and other celebrations.
  3. What kind of instruments did the Ancient Romans have? The Ancient Romans had brass instruments, wood wind instruments, stringed instruments and percussion.
  4. What area was the Ancient Roman music inspired by? The Ancient Roman music was inspired by music of the Ancient Egyptians.
  5. Did Ancient Roman music have a melody and a harmony?   The Ancient Roman music only had a melody and no harmony.